Introducing CounterPower

Apr, 2020

The world-system is in crisis: pandemics, poverty and inequality, migrant detention camps, imperialist wars, and climate change. As the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci once said, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” In order for humanity to bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old, we need a revolutionary movement, rooted among the multitude of workers and all oppressed people, capable of building a system of counterpower.

The Organization for a Free Society (OFS) is excited to announce that we have voted to change our name to CounterPower/ContraPoder, effective immediately. The decision to change our name flowed from months of discussion, culminating at our national congress, held January 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. A variety of factors influenced the decision to change our name, but ultimately our assessment of the rapidly changing political terrain in North America – particularly the resurgence of a revolutionary left focused on building a mass base for proletarian and popular power – led us to the conclusion that we should adopt a name that makes explicit how our organization sees its task: as a tool in the protracted struggle for communism, committed to the construction of a system of working-class and popular counterpower, from below and to the left.

When we decided on the name “Organization for a Free Society” in 2008, it suited the prevailing political discourse in the U.S. The name reflected our desire to articulate a visionary politics of liberation that was feminist, ecological, and democratic, emphasizing Marx’s vision of communism as a society in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” The name served us well, particularly during the Occupy movement, in which we articulated an emancipatory politics based on commons and council democracy. We encouraged our fellow occupiers to reconceptualize the space of occupation as a terrain for the reemergence of the council-form, a possible starting point for building a communal social system based on federations of autonomous neighborhood and workers’ councils.

The cultural and political terrain of the U.S. has shifted dramatically since our organization formed more than a decade ago. The shattering of the neoliberal consensus under the weight of the long crisis, and the subsequent widespread political polarization of large sections of the population have transformed the space within which we operate. While the contradictions and shortcomings of the capitalist system are exposed, working-class people seeking alternatives are increasingly faced with a choice between two resurgent forces: the left, or an increasingly fascist right. We want to engage with disillusioned workers, and members of the incipient left, from a position that makes our stance as communist partisans explicit. At the same time, with right-wing forces appropriating the aesthetics and terminology of terms like “liberty” and “freedom,” we want to avoid the misclassification of our organization as conservative. Therefore, we feel our name change to CounterPower/ContraPoder is essential to clarify our worldview and praxis.

We believe the name CounterPower/ContraPoder more accurately reflects our position as a revolutionary political organization committed to building the autonomous power of the working class and popular social groups, from below and to the left. Drawing lessons from past and present movements, we offer analyses, visions, and strategies to build a movement for a social revolution in the belly of the beast. We organize to dismantle the imperialist world-system: a system based on the fusion and intra-action of capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and the state. In its place we remain committed to the construction of an ecologically sustainable free society in which the masses of people have collective control of the decisions that affect our lives, and the resources on which we depend. We believe that our most pressing task is the immediate construction of autonomous mass organizations, from militant labor and tenant unions to councils and communes, through which to advance the struggle for liberation. It is the task of a revolutionary party of autonomy, an organization of communist militants, to ensure that these emerging forms of struggle coalesce as a system of proletarian and popular counterpower, capable of contending with imperialism for power and constructing a new world.

Help us build CounterPower/ContraPoder, from below and to the left!